England 2010, Day 5: Shopping, Tower of London, and A Night Out on the Town
This post is part 7 of my travel series on our trip to England. You can also read about my getting to the first destination; our first evening in the Cotswolds; seeing the English countryside by bicycle; visiting Cotswold villages and local farm animals; exploring Oxford and Blenheim Palace; our first day seeing the sights of London; exploring Kew Gardens, the British Library, and the British Museum; saying goodbye; and other reflections.
Thursday, July 29—Breakfast at the Lynton Hotel is served in the basement of the building. As you reach the bottom of the stairs, you get a glimpse of apron-clad Mark working over the stove. However, most mornings you can hear him singing random little ditties before you ever see him.
Once seated in the slightly shabby, but bright and clean breakfast room, Simon comes in to take your order. The ever-present muesli and other cold cereals are available on a ledge underneath the large windows that span the width of the room. Our first morning, we again had the full English, but subsequently Jeff opted for scrambled eggs and toast, while I had poached eggs and baked beans. We had a fun array of toppings for toast to choose from, including strawberry and apricot jam, nutella, and marmite.
Our first stop of the day was the half-price ticket booth at Leicester Square (that’s pronounced “lester”) to see about theatre tickets for that evening. None of the half-price shows were ones we were both particularly interested in, and other shows like Phantom and Les Mis were available but not discounted. We ultimately decided to see Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, the longest running play in history. Partly because it has been running for so long—it’s now in it’s 58th season—they never have discounts, but tickets are actually a reasonable price anyway.
As we weren’t too far away from St. Martin’s Theatre, where Mousetrap is held, we decided to walk to the theatre and just buy our tickets there. We were glad we went with this course of action, when we had plenty of time, as the theatre was off a side street and not the easiest to find.
Across the street from St. Martin’s was a beautiful flatiron building called The Ivy, which I later learned is a restaurant. Our good friends have a baby girl named Ivy so I had to take some photos for them.
Tickets in hand, we set off to further explore the shops and area around Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, and Covent Garden, including the Trocadero, Shaftesbury Avenue, Chinatown, Neal Street, and Neal’s Yard.
This part of the day is a bit of a blur in my memory, but we did have fun browsing a little manga and anime shop, and I bought some clothes at Fat Face. I highly recommend a little tucked away area called Neal’s Yard. You have to be looking for it, but it’s full of brick buildings with colorful signs and plants spilling out of window boxes and a center courtyard with tables, benches, and trees. We didn’t have time to explore it properly and I sadly didn’t snap any pictures. In my limited experience, it reminded me of Yellow Springs, Ohio and the neighborhood of Northside in Cincinnati—sort of an eclectic, hippie paradise. If (when?) I’m back in London again, I will be going back there.
Eventually we ended up at Covent Garden market where we saw some of the famed street performers:
Here I finally found a shop selling quality tea and greatly enjoyed browsing the selection of loose-leaf teas and sampling the teas of the days. I purchased several tins, of course.
Can’t you just picture Eliza Doolittle selling her bunches of flowers next to one of those columns?
On our way to Chinatown for lunch, we made a most excellent discovery: Snog. Tart frozen yogurt is all the rage in large cities across America, the most famous being Pinkberry. I am a HUGE fan of our local Cincinnati version, Yagööt. Well, Snog is London’s Yagööt! The yogurt flavors and toppings were a little different, and I was thrilled to be able to have green tea flavor with raspberry, kiwi, and mochi. I have long wished for Yagoot to have green tea as one of their seasonal flavors. Jeff had chocolate with blackberries, mochi, and brownie chunks. Also, their web site is ifancyasnog.com, and it’s filled with funny innuendos about snogging. LOVE IT!
After unexpectedly taking the edge off our hunger at Snog, we shared a dish of cashew chicken at one of the restaurants in Chinatown. London’s Chinatown is actually quite small, especially for a city the size of and with the cultural diversity of London.
Next up, The Tower of London:
After a couple hours at the Tower (another whirlwind tour), it was time to take the tube back to the hotel to get ready for our night out on the town. We got to experience feeling like sardines during rush hour! There’s a totally different feel on the Underground depending on the time of day you ride.
Before long, we were all spiffed up and back at St. Martin’s to start our evening:
We had very nice seats at the front of the first balcony, right in the center. The play was wonderful and lived up to expectations. However, we are sworn to secrecy and will never tell ‘whodunit’.
During intermission, Jeff asked the guy at the concessions stand if he had a recommendation for a good place to get dinner after the show. He got sort of vague directions to a little Italian place a couple blocks away. We found Ristorante Cappuccetto pretty easily and it was perfect: small, probably family-run, but wonderful food, wine, and service. It was mostly empty when we arrived just after 10 o’clock, but filled up quickly. We spent a leisurely, wonderful almost two hours over dinner. I love that such a late dinner is perfectly normal there, and it’s expected that you will linger over your food.
We started with bruschetta and garlic bread, then Jeff had pollo alla cappuccetto (breaded chicken breast cooked in marsala wine and mushroom sauce) and I had pollo alla cacciatora (chicken cooked in tomato sauce, onions, mushrooms, and sweet peppers). We shared a bottle of sweet rose wine that cost about as much as our dinner. I don’t know that much about wine, but that was the good stuff.
Here we are, looking rather sleepy, back at our hotel after our wonderful night out in Soho: